Upper Harbor Terminal Venue Lands Two New Partners
Rendering of the Upper Harbor Terminal’s performance venue. Image courtesy of First Avenue

Upper Harbor Terminal Venue Lands Two New Partners

The Minnesota Orchestra and the African American Community Development Corporation have signed on as "strategic partners" in the project.

The Upper Harbor Terminal redevelopment’s Community Performing Arts Center may not open until 2025, but the project appeared to gain significant momentum last week. First Avenue, which has taken the lead on the project’s performing arts venue, on Thursday announced that the Minnesota Orchestra and the African American Community Development Corporation have signed on as “strategic partners” in the redevelopment.

The two entities have agreed to aid in crucial pieces of the outdoor amphitheater’s operation, First Avenue announced in a Thursday news release. The Minnesota Orchestra will facilitate private fundraising for the amphitheater and provide governance and oversight alongside First Avenue. The African American Community Development Corporation (AACDC), meanwhile, will serve as the project’s “community entity” and is tasked with creating economic development opportunities in the neighborhood in which the Upper Harbor Terminal is being built.

The announcement answers questions that have been posed in the past over who should manage the site. While the new venue offers the area’s first-of-its-kind outdoor amphitheater experience, some have voiced concerns over how the development will impact people already living in the neighborhood surrounding it. To help quell those concerns, the City Council in 2019 created a citizen-led advisory board known as the Upper Harbor Terminal Collaborative Planning Committee.

Here are the specifics on the new partners’ roles:

Minnesota Orchestra 

The orchestra will serve as the strategic business partner, handling private fundraising and operational assistance. In exchange, the orchestra will receive a portion of the project’s revenue share once the theater is operational. The partnership will ensure financial stability and permanency for the Community Performing Arts Center, the release states.

However, neither First Avenue or the Orchestra will serve as the sole operators of the space. A new company will be formed to operate the amphitheater, with representatives from each organization providing oversight, a project spokesperson told TCB in an email. Through this separate company, a small staff will manage the programming, promotion, and daily operation of the amphitheater.

The African American Community Development Corporation

In its capacity as the project’s “community entity,” the African American Community Development Corporation will work to connect the project to the North Minneapolis McKinley neighborhood where the Upper Harbor Terminal is being built. The organization’s job will include finding economic development opportunities for the neighborhood. According to the release, the group will work to “build collective strength and capacity to convert African American ideas, capital, and action into tangible and lasting benefits for the African American community.”

The AACDC, founded in 2021, will manage a fund to develop community programming, support local vendors and entrepreneurs, and create a youth jobs and career program, according to the release. This fund is estimated to total around $500,000 per year raised through a $3 per ticket fee.

“The AACDC looks forward to working with the UHT CPAC to establish meaningful public programming and community participation in this development. Members of our board participated in the years’ worth of community meetings on this project and have been involved from the earliest steps,” AACDC board member Keith Baker said in the release. “This partnership creates a new and exciting creative space within the city and with historic local institutions partnering with community members, who have a deep history of working in the community. We have the ability to provide the absolute best possible outcomes from the entire project and the surrounding community.”

Programing determined by the AACDC will be informed by the 2021 Final Upper Harbor Terminal Coordinated Plan, according to First Avenue.

More about the project:

In addition to the outdoor amphitheater space, the redevelopment of the 48-acre site includes an affordable housing development, a 19-acre park, and a health and wellness hub. Project leaders have said the development will bring 300 jobs to North Minneapolis. The city-owned site on the Mississippi was once home to a barge shipping terminal, which closed in 2014. Since then, the city has signed on with United Properties to develop the area.

Early on, city officials picked United Properties as the master real estate developer for the 48-acre site. Shortly after, First Avenue also joined the development team.

In 2021, the city formally approved a $350 million redevelopment plan for the Upper Harbor site.